Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Busy wading time!

One of the greatest joys for me as a resource manager on restored property is seeing the wildlife foraging and using it, especially in areas where different species co-mingle. One of the best times to witness this is during my point count bird surveys which are done quarterly. In the spring as the water is drying up, different reconstructed marshes "come online" for foraging wading birds. And there are peak foraging water levels. When these are reached, the great mix you see in the photo occurs. Species included (but not necessarily seen in this photo) include: wood storks, great egrets, greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, roseate spoonbill, American coots, common moorehens, white ibis, glossy ibis, mottled ducks, black-bellied whistling ducks, black-necked stilts, and alligators. Below are black-bellied whistling ducks flying in to join the mix.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Critter of the Week: Black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)

Black-necked stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) do look like they are walking around on stilts! Their long thin red legs are distinct. There are 5 species of stilts in this genus, and all Himantopus species have these long legs, legs that are the second longest in proportion to their bodies behind only flamingos!

Our black-necked stilts are found in shallow wetland areas (salt ponds, shorelines, mudflats, flooded lowlands, etc.) from the western United States down into central America and into parts of South America. They forage by wading in shallow waters in search of aquatic invertebrates and fish. They will actually plunge their heads into water in pursuit of their food! They are typically seen in pairs or small groups.

These birds share the parental duties. Both adults help in choosing a nest location, and then both will work to construct the nest. Nests are built on the ground in soft substrate that can be scraped since the nests themselves are shallow depressions (about 2 inches deep made with the feet and breast) and often lined with grasses, shells, etc. that can be found nearby. The nests are typically built on surfaces above water such as small islands or clumps of vegetation. Clutch sizes are from 1-5 eggs that are incubated for 21-26 days. The young are covered in down and able to leave the nest within 2 hours of hatching. They are extremely territorial in the winter and during breeding season. But they are semi-colonial when nesting and will actually participate together in anti-predator displays! But when not breeding they will often form in closely packed groups to forage. To me, their behavior is fascinating!

While the overall population of black-necked stilts appears healthy, there are always threats to them from things like habitat loss, water pollution, and more. In Hawaii, the subspecies, the Ae'o, is a federally endangered species, in part, because of invasive aquatic plants that have diminished open water foraging grounds.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

It's so EASY being GREEN!

Think you are green...not sure...want to be greener?

Take part in the Spring Greening Challenge then!